Friday, August 31, 2007

Time to fix the Beaver Jets

Anyone who flies in a Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ) had better read this:

http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=655056

What puzzles me is why Midwest Airlines would even think a customer would want to ride in one of those cramped caskets in the sky. Certainly not the best care in the air there.

Of course, it's a step above Midwest's BE1900 flying pencils (no bathroom on board).

Friday Morning Funnies

LAUREL -- To Pick-N-Save for their delightful uptown (inner city) Kenosha store which has brought a full-service grocery store to a neighborhood that hasn't had one for more than three decades. Besides helping reviatalize a neighborhood, it provides jobs and a sense of community pride. Plus it's located whree people outside of the neighborhood also shop there and find the store layout convenient for quicker shopping.

DART -- To Pick-N-Save for pulling the pharmacy out of the uptown Kenosha store.

BIGGER DART and DUH -- To Pick-N-Save for continuing to spit out cash register coupons for the pharmacy at the uptown Kenosha store.

At one time we used to say that government should run like the private sector. These days it's difficult to automatically make that leap.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A novel idea: listen to the employees

Yesterday the Kenosha Unified School District kicked off a new school year with the annual convocation -- sort of a mega-staff meeting and pep rally.

A couple of things were diferent.

First, Acting School Superintendent Joe Mangi got a standing ovation. A school superintendent in this community hasn't had that for a long time -- and with good reason.

Second, the president of the Kenosha Education Assocation, Chris Perillo, was invited to make remarks. That's the first time a KEA president has done so in nearly a decade.

It isn't hard not to like the KEA or its parent, the Wisconsin Education Association Council. Both the KEA and WEAC are often left-of-reality when it comes to the public policy choices they espouse, particularly when it comes to the reality check of who is going to pay and how.

The KEA is also worthy of criticism for often being so wrapped up in union bickering with the school district that it overlooks the day-to-day needs of rank-and-file teachers.

Nonetheless, the teachers in the community are on the front lines of education in our schools. Yet, when teachers go to the school board meetings to express their views, they're often ignored and disrespected.

Teachers who wish to speak are given a few minutes in the citizens' comments portion of the agenda where their often legitimate concerns can get lost in the din of self-serving rhetoric that often attends to citizens' comments.

There's no excuse for this.

If the school board and administrators are smart, they'll pay more attention to what front-line educators have to say. Usually they know best what's needed in the classrooms yet sometimes their input isn't welcome by administrators whose agendas may be less altruistic.

This isn't to suggest that the school board should get soft with the wackos in the KEA who are out of touch with reality and by all means put on the boxing gloves and go at it during contract negotiations. But on a day-to-day basis, it's the people on the front lines who do the lion's share of the work and their input deserves attention and respect.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hailing an unsung hero: Mark Dooley

Keith Williams was convicted yesterday of second degree sexual assault and false imprisonment following an eight-day jury trial.

It's the second time that Williams, a Chicago resident, was convicted of this cowardly assault on a young woman.

His earlier conviction in March of 2003 was set aside by the presiding judge in that case -- Wilbur W. Warren III -- who granted a defense motion for a new trial. The Court of Appeals affirmed Warren, a legal journey that took over two years and clearly made life more miserable for the victim and her family.

It's axiomatic in the legal profession that cases rarely improve with age and when this case came up again it seemed like an uphill battle. Keith Williams must have been smiling then. But Williams never met Mark Dooley.

The case was transferred to another judge, S. Michael Wilk. Dooley, a veteran prosecutor, works in Wilk's courtroom and inherited the Williams case.

Dooley spent hundreds of hours -- much of it on his own time -- reviewing the old case. Instead of giving up on what may have seemed to many to be a sinking ship Dooley pressed on and the results of new scientific testing breathed new life into the prosecution. He fought -- and fought hard -- to prove what turned out in many ways to be a new case before a new judge, a new jury and even a new defense attorney.

This hard work paid off when the new jury returned its verdicts yesterday.

The Kenosha News chose to focus its attention on a couple of high profile cases -- the neverending Mark Jensen homicide case and the home invasion and sexual assault trial of Charles Williams (which also resulted in guilty verdicts on ten charges yesterday thanks to the aggressive prosecution of District Attorney Robert D. Zapf) -- with nary a word about the Keith Williams case.

That's too bad.

The public deserves to know about the dedication and hard work of Mark Dooley who took up a challenge others may well have avoided and pursued justice. And in so doing Dooley deserves this community's thanks.

Flash: "W" realizes Iran is a potential threat

George Bush yesterday ramped up the war of words between the US and Iran, accusing Tehran of threatening to place the Middle East under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust and revealing that he had authorized US military commanders in Iraq to "confront Tehran's murderous activities,"



He's just figuring this out? Oh boy........


Yes, in response to a couple of comments, he mentioned Iran before but he's never done anything about it. It's old news -- nearly 30 years since hostages were taken at the American exbassy in Tehran. Iran probably posed a much greater threat to American security than Iraq ever did and yet they essentially have gotten a pass.

The problem is that this administration's credibility is so low that you don't know when to believe or trust what they say. It's ironic that whenever the political winds start blowing the wrong way for Bush it seems that he drags out the "national security" dragon to breath smoke and fire on us so that we all bend over and shut up. We've been in Iraq now longer than we were actively fighting World War II. It's high time Congress and the American people stand up and demand real accountability, something this president has failed to deliver.

Does anyone really care whether Larry Craig is gay?

From reading the police report it seems that either this airport cop is an awfully creative writer or Senator Craig is just plain creepy: http://www.foxnews.com/projects/pdf/craig_report.pdf

I travel through the Minneapolis airport a lot. I can't envision how the Idaho senator's conduct was justified but, in the off chance that it was, then he should have stood up to clear his name.

My sympathy goes out to his family and the people of Idaho. As for Larry, I don't care if he's gay or not (about the only people who might are gays who legitmately might be offended by Larry's behavior).

I'm more concerned about how weird he is.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

WKRP and the search for a new police chief.

The second generation of the popular sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati began with the search for a replacement for the mythical radio station's program director, Andy Travis, who was quitting.

The lone applicant, Donovan Aderhold, caused quite a stir when he showed up for an interview with Travis and station manager Arthur Carlson.

Aderhold, you see, was black, and much of the episode is spent with Mr. Carlson spinning around in circles over how to handle that unprecedented situation. However, he knew he had to interview Aderhold, so a stammering Mr. Carlson and Travis called Aderhold in.

In dialogue that could have been recited by Porky Pig, Mr. Carlson stammers to tell Aderhold, "You know this isn't a black radio station."

Aderhold doesn't miss a beat and replies, "I'm not a black program director." He goes on to explain that he doesn't program black radio stations but can do the job regardless of the format and intended audience and asks to be considered on his merits, not the color of his skin or any preconceived notions about his abilities as a result thereof.

There's a lesson in that sitcom for police and fire commissioners in Kenosha and Milwaukee where the process is underway to hire new police chiefs.

The successful applicant should be selected strictly on his or her merits and not because of gender, race or any other extraneous factor. The bottom line is that the best person for the job should get the job, period.

Kenosha: Steve Casey has it right

Sometimes Kenosha Alderman Steve Casey's head can be thicker than his waist (I know, I shouldn't talk) but this time he's onto something.

Casey points out an apparent hypocrisy that the city is considering an ordinance which would essentially consign sex offenders to a small sliver of the city yet a new elementary school (to replace Lincoln and Durkee) will be built a stone's throw from a minimum security (no gates or razor wire fences) state prison where sex offenders may occasionally reside.

It's no secret that Casey is a thorn in Mayor John Antaramian's side but he has a plausible point.

Regardless of the possibility of sex offenders being lodged at the Kenosha Correctional Center, that school should never have been sited at that location. Most of that process was the result of a series of closed-door wheeling and dealing in which the city gave the school district that parcel of land.

While the mayor has done a lot of good for the city -- especially in curbing urban blight and revitalizing challenged neighborhoods --he's not infallible and this has to be one of the most boneheaded moves he's ever made.

But hizzoner is not alone. The school board and former superintendent Scott Pierce participated in this dirty work. Their lack of brilliance will have many children crossing busy Sheridan Road to get to a school far from their homes. A wiser move might have been to consolidate Lincoln and Columbus schools (Columbus, like Durkee, is ancient, small, ill-equipped and incapable of expansion) and find a site east of Sheridan Road for the new Durkee school.

This time, score one for Steve Casey.

McCain sticks his neck out on Iraq

Tuesday night Senator John McCain again took an unpopular tack on Iraq, claiming that we are making progress and that it would be catastrophic to pull our troops out now.

On the flip side, it's unclear exactly when McCain thinks we ought to bring our troops home. He acknowledges a growing sentiment in this country to get out of Iraq.

McCain believes that Donald Rumsfeld was one of the worst defense secretaries in the nation's history but says the new management has a workable plan.

It's hard to know whether McCain's right. But you have to wonder that if this plan is workable, why isn't it working? Why can't we win? Why is our defense so depleted that we have reservists and national guardsmen on the front lines? How prepared are we for another terrorist attack?

If we're going to be in a war, we need to be in it to win and can't fight it with one hand tied behind the back. We should have learned that lesson in Vietnam. Either we're in to win or we need to get out.

Justice: Time for Bush to repair the damage

From the Chicago Tribune (hardly a liberal house organ):

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chi-0828edit1aug28,0,515056.story

I concur. There are many things for which you can justify politics but there's also a time to put justice first. The Bush White House apparently never got that memo.

It may be a long time before the Republican Party recovers from the damage done in the last seven years.

A pro-life cause everyone can support

The wackos who bomb abortion clinics and the good intentioned folks who march around post offices with pictures of aborted fetuses probably do more to harm the pro life movement than anything else.

Like it or not, Roe v. Wade has been the law of the land for more than three decades. That Supreme Court decision generally ensures that women have the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy.

That "right" is a civil legal right. In other words, Roe v. Wade prohibits the government from interfering with a woman who wants to have an abortion.

But Roe v. Wade isn't the end of the story.

While many in the right to life movement focus their energy on legislators in hopes to somehow repeal Roe v. Wade there is a quietly growing movement that recognizes that women have the civil legal right to choose to terminate a pregnancy and that the real decision is made not by a politician but by a woman in a crisis pregnancy.

Groups such as the Veritas Society reach out in a low-key way to these women with the message that while they have the right to choose, choosing life is a better choice.

At the end of the day, reaching out to the real decision maker isn't such a bad idea. Plus, from an ethical construct, it recognizes that the civil law isn't the only factor.

When I was a city marshal many years ago I saw a man pumping gasoline while smoking a cigarette. When I admonoshed him about it, the response I got was, "Fuck you. There's no law against it."

Reaching over to shut off the pump, I replied, "Yes, there is and you're under arrest. But even if it wasn't against the state law it's against the laws of nature. You could blow up the whole block."

Thus, the most effective vehicle for pro life advocacy is to recognize that there is more than one set of laws but at the end of the day there is only one decision maker: a woman in a crisis pregnancy. She needs to be treated with dignity, compassion and respect.

The Veritas Society spends its resources trying to do that. They deserve everyone's support.

Memo to Culver's: A little colder, please

The blinking Culver's sign said, "TODAY'S FLAVOR: BUTTER PECAN" which meant a hastily signalled right turn into the parking lot.

I ordered that delicious treat, no questions asked.

But when the cone was handed to me it was dripping all over the place -- and today wasn't a hot day.

It certainly impedes the enjoyment of this delicacy to have to rush and maneuver to keep it from spilling.

How about fixing your equipment so your product isn't so runny?

Thanks.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Time for the Kenosha News to recognize the strength of women as leaders

The ink wasn't dry on Bill Guida's last Kenosha News column in which lamented the secrecy in the process of selecting Kenosha's new police chief -- a column in which he also said the Police and Fire Commission should have entertained applications from outside the Kenosha Police Department -- before this E-mail popped up Monday night:



"Bill Guida says it's time for Kenosha to recognize the strength of women as leaders. The city can start by naming a well-qualified woman as police chief."



To bring you up to speed, the Police and Fire Commission narrowed the list of contenders to three: Asst. Chief Thomas Genthner and Captains John Morrissey and Kristine Fonk. They hope to pick the new chief in October.
As I said here earlier this summer, for those of us who know all of the applicants asking to name a favorite is like asking which of your children you love the most. I do know, though, that for most of the people in local law enforcement the concern is getting the best person in the job regardless of gender.
Naming a favorite is further complicated by the amount of information the Police and Fire Commission has kept from the public, a point which Guida ostensibly recognized in his earlier column.
There's nothing wrong with recognizing the strength of women as leaders but it's even better when you recognize leaders who happen to be women.
There is something very wrong with selecting a "well-qualified woman as police chief."
First and foremost, the Police and Fire Commission should choose the most qualified applicant as the next police chief, period. If Capt. Fonk happens to be that person, that's great.
Not to do so trivializes Capt. Fonk's 22 years of service to the community and attaches the "invisible asterisk" to her appointment that she was "a well-qualified woman" or that her gender played any role in her selection whatsoever.
I've known Kris since we were in high school together. Nonetheless, I want the best person in the job and it would be an almost insurmountable insult to Kris and the women of Kenosha if her appointment was tainted by the aura that somehow she was given preferential consideration because of gender. Apparently the Kenosha News doesn't get that. Or a lot of other things.
What would you think if you saw any of the following printed in the Kenosha News:
  • Jessica Hansen, a well-qualified woman reporter
  • Barbara Lawton, a well-qualified woman lieutenant governor
  • the late Mary D. Bradford, a well-qualified woman school superintendent
  • Elizabeth Burmaster, a well-qualified woman state superintenent of public instruction
  • Jean Werbie, a well-qualified woman village planner
  • Julia Robinson, a well-qualified woman city council member
  • Samantha Kerkman, a well-qualified woman legislator
  • Barbara A. Kluka, a well-qualified woman judge
  • Kathleen Barca, a well-qualified woman school administrator
  • Adelene Greene, a well-qualified woman workforce development director
  • Mary Lichter, a well-qualified woman parks director
  • Rhonda Jolly, a well-qualified woman veterans affairs specialist
  • Dr. Mary Mainland, a well-qualified woman medical examiner
  • Jennifer Greene, a well-qualified woman forensic chemist
  • Elizabeth Szabo, a well-qualified woman school principal
  • Mary Beier, a well-qualified woman juvenile intake director
  • Kathleen Goessel, a well-qualified woman village treasurer
  • Jane Romanowski, a well-qualified woman village clerk
  • Jennifer Jackson, a well-qualified woman county board supervisor
  • Marilyn Lemke, a well-qualified woman registrar in probate
  • Tedi Winett, a well-qualified woman university extension director
  • Mary K. Wagner, a well-qualified circuit court judge, former county clerk, former state legislator and former teacher
  • Carol Stancato, a well-qualified woman city finance director
  • Paula Touhey, a well-qualified woman museum director
  • Colleen Murphy-Fisch, a well-qualified woma town supervisor
  • Diann Tesar, a well-qualified woman town chairman
  • Sheila Siegler, a well-qualified woman town clerk
  • Sheronda Glass, a well-qualified woman school district personnel manager
  • Laurie Wright, a well-qualified woman school superintendent
  • the late Lynn Copen, a well-qualified woman victim/witness services director
  • Patricia Merrill, a well-qualified woman school board president
  • Pam Stevens, a well-qualified woman school board vice-president
  • Edna Highland, a well-qualified woman county clerk
  • Kathleen Marks, a well-qualified woman city council member and former council president

You'd think it would look very odd to see that modifier appear when describing any of the above community leaders -- and you'd be right on target. In fact, the above list is just a beginning. There are many more women in positions of power and leadership in this community in the public and private sectors.

Long ago this community phased out the perceived need to modify a person's professional title with a gender reference. We simply write or talk about Circuit Judge Barbara A. Kluka or School Administrator Laurie Wright and so forth.

Contrary to what the Kenosha News says, this community long ago began recognizing the strength of women as leaders. Where has the newspaper been?

In fact, that's a darn good question: Where has the newspaper been?

A lot of women work for the Kenosha News but how many are in key management and leadership positions? Not many. The president, publisher, editor-in-chief and all but one of the subordinate editors are men (and Kathy Troher is the "features" editor).

Rather than writing about the struggle of women elsewhere to pierce the glass ceiling, maybe it's time for Kenosha News management to invest in a piece of glass -- a mirror to look into before making uninformed, inaccurate and just plain ignorant comments about others (especially when its own house isn't in order).

I doubt the newspaper meant any harm. It's likely that the writer and the editors who approved such drivel just weren't thinking.

In a way I'm tempted to hope Capt. Fonk isn't named the new police chief because if she gets the job she'll have to work twice as hard just to overcome the "invisible asterisk" the newspaper dimwittingly placed next to her name. That's not only insulting but unfair to her, the men and women of the Kenosha Police Department and this community.

Bush can restore Justice Department credibility

Alberto Gonzales' resignation as Attorney General gives President Bush the opportunity to restore credibility at the top of the United States Department of Justice.

To be fair, the Attorney General is a political appointee who serves at will. The same is true for United States Attorneys. Nonetheless smart presidents have sought attenuate the political obligations of appointed federal prosecutors.

Gonzales' replacement should be someone both of impeccable credentials and integrity, preferably a person with knowledge of the job and whose reputation in the legal community is that of a strong but straight-shooter.

One person who would fill that bill is Joe D. Whitley.

Whitley served as general counsel for the Department of Homeland Security before returning to the Atlanta law firm of Alston. Whitley was formerly United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia from June 1990 to November 1993. Previously, he served as the third-ranking DOJ official. As Acting Associate Attorney General, he provided policy guidance to the 60,000 employees of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, the U.S. Parole Commission, the Pardon Attorney, Interpol, the Office of Justice Program, and the 93 U.S. Attorneys and their staffs. Whitley also served for five years as the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, the youngest person ever to be appointed a United States. Attorney and the only person to ever serve as United States
Attorney for two separate federal jurisdictions. He also held other management positions in the DOJ.

Whitley served on the Criminal Justice Section Council for the American Bar Association and is a regular participant in ABA activities. He is known for being low-key, accessible and honorable. These qualities are in short-supply and much needed.

Alberto Gonzales quits

The revolving door in the Bush Administration keeps spinning with today's resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales who has been embroiled in controversy over the firing of eight United States Attorneys and efforts to can others not in full sympatico with the Karl Rove wing.

Part of this mess probably stems from the fact that Gonzales never was Attorney General material. Gonzales was an attorney in private practice from 1982 until 1994 with the Houston law firm Vinson and Elkins, where he became a partner. In 1994, he was named general counsel to then-Texas Governor George W. Bush, rising to become Secretary of State of Texas in 1997 and finally to be named to the Texas Supreme Court in 1999, both appointments made by Governor Bush.

Gonzales' performance is another example of the Bush administration making it more difficult for Republicans. His record suggests more concern for administration loyalty than the Constitution.

In fairness, every president expects appointees to be loyalists. There are, however, times when duty to country exceeds political collegiality. That was demonstrated three decades ago in the famous "Saturday night massacre" when then-Attorney General Elliot Richardson quit rather than follow President Nixon's demand to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus also resigned rather than obey the politically motivated order.

It should be noted that Richardson was no gadfly in the Nixon ointment. Prior to serving as Attorney General Richardson was Nixon's Undersecretary of State, Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare and Secretary of Defense.

Gonzales' departure most likely is the result of him feeling the heat rather than seeing the light. Good riddance.

Bill Guida (sort of) gets it.

Columnist Bill Guida peppered the Sunday Kenosha News with criticism for the secrecy surrounding the selection of Kenosha's next police chief.

We know the names of the finalists -- Deputy Chief Thomas Genthner and Captains John Morrissey and Kristine Fonk -- but little else except that the city's Police and Fire Commission hopes to make a decision in October.

Guida correctly points out that this process needs to be carried out in the light of day. But he missed the boat earlier when the commission did its darndest to frustrate public input.

Here's what was written here on June 28, 2007:

The Sunday Kenosha News has a weekly editorial in which it hands out
laurels and darts.One can only wonder if this Sunday the Kenosha Police and Fire
Commission will get its well-deserved dart for soliciting public input on the
new police chief at an 8 a.m. meeting which is not liklely to be accessible or
convenient to the public.


And, when the newspaper didn't dart the commission, it earned its own dart on July 2, 2007:

DART to the Kenosha News for not issuing a dart to the Kenosha Police and Fire
Commission which is affording the public a chance to comment on who should be
the city's next police chief at a meeting to be held on a weekday at 8 a.m.The
Pleasant Prairie Village Board was justifiably criticized a couple of years ago
for meeting at 5 p.m. because it was a time when many citizens would not likely
be able to attend. The village board now meets at 6:30 p.m.I know there are some
folks in Pleasant Prairie who believe that the newspaper would go ballistic if
an 8 a.m. meeting on something this important was attempted in the village.
Their concerns would not be unjustified.



So, when Bill Guida complains about a selection process that needs to be more open and accessible to the public, he should also respond to why it's taken him -- or, more importantly, his editors -- so long to figure this out.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Losing another of The Greatest Generation

Richard "Dick" Campagna died Friday. He was 81.

Dick was one of those people who make a community work. He served his country in World War II, came home to Kenosha to marry and raise a family, was active in his church and community and did the things we expect productive citizens to do.

Dick was the son-in-law of Oscar Wettengel, a man who made his living selling and fixing typewriters and adding machines. Oscar eventually turned the business over to Dick and later on Dick's son, John, joined Dick in fixing the myriad of business and office machines that went from mechanics to electronics. There aren't a lot of people who can fix typewriters. Dick could.

Dick didn't just do the work, he provided service. His station wagon was a familiar site around Kenosha businesses and government offices as he installed and serviced typewriters, printers, calculators and the like. His wit and wisdom, as well as his skills, will be missed.

Dick was 81 when he died but he really never seemed "old." He took a hard hit a few years ago when John died at an unexpectedly young age. But Dick pressed on.

In a good sense, Dick was a bit of a character. That's a precious quality that is becoming more scarce by the day.

I often repeat Charles Kuralt's observation that when Americans runs out of characters, it will have lost its character.

Kenosha lost its typewriter repairman -- and another character.

Time for a "he's out" to Ned Yost?

The Milwaukee Brewers at the top of the heap not that long ago.

But, like George H. Bush after Desert Storm, they squandered the lead and now have a measly .500 average (65-65) after blowing a three-game series to the last-place San Francisco Giants.

How does a team that had it so together become so unraveled?

Kenosha Snooze: Asleep at the switch?

On Thursday Larry Harding, a former Somers town board supervisor, filed complaints which alleged that the public notices of three town board meetings were not sufficiently specific.

The complaints were immediately reviewed and the prosecutor not only found that two of the three allegations were metitorius but also found another violation that Harding overlooked. A written response was sent to town officials advising them to improve their meeting notices. The prosecutor's letter also said that similar violations had been committed by other governmental bodies, such as the Kenosha Unified School Board, which received copies of the cautionary letter. Copies were also E-mailed to the editor of the Kenosha News and reporter Joe Potente.

Surprise, surprise that Saturday's Kenosha News carried Potente's story about Harding's complaint with no mention of the response. There was nothing in Sunday's newspaper.

This is but another sign of a disturbing trend of that newspaper to delay printing stories. Perhaps if there was a viable commercial broadcast news operation in town it would be a different story but WLIP systematically eliminated three of its four reporters with the remaining one an announcer who rarely goes out to cover any stories and much of what you hear on the radio weekday mornings seems to be a rewrite of what's already in the morning paper.

Of course, the real losers here are the public.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

War is neither conservative or liberal.

I read a "conservative" blog that takes aim at Senator John Warner, former Navy Secretary and former chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who suggests that American troops should be withdrawn from Iraq this fall and be home by Christmas.

One of the few World War II veterans left in Congress, Senator Warner isn't an idiot. Nor does he, as a Republican, owe blind allegiance to President Bush. The same can be said for two other Republicans with the stripes to question the White House, Indiana's Richard Lugar and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. They, too, aren't idiots but two of the most respected people in Washington.

The fact is that this president has embarrassed the Republican party by his ineptness and bullheaded resistance to any ideas other than his own. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center the nation was ready to support an Iraq invasion aimed at taking out Saddam Hussein, who was such a tyrant that his removal was justified regardless of whether weapons of mass destructions were ever found.

We are nearing six years since 9/11. Bin Laden still hasn't been found. Over 3,000 American lives have been lost in Iraq in a war that is a bottomless pit. Saddam is gone. The national pasttime in the Middle East seems to be bloodshed and we aren't likely to change it.

In the Vietnam era, young men joined the National Guard to avoid going to Vietnam. Now the National Guard is on the front battle lines. What does that say about our nation's military preparedness?

That question was raised by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, hardly a liberal, who posed a good question: If we couldn't manage a crisis like Hurricane Katrina, what would happen with another terrorist attack?

So far, we haven't had a good answer. Bush got a mandate in the 2004 elections. He didn't deliver.

War isn't a liberal vs. conservative thing. Vietnam started with two liberal presidents and our escalated involvement obviously forced President Lyndon B. Johnson not to seek re-election in 1968.

War shouldn't be a political thing. The fact that three respected veteran Republicans senators have come forward to question our Iraq strategy isn't something done lightly. It is the triumph of oath and duty over politics.

As for the Democrats, for most it's all about politics. Take a politcal shot at W -- after all, he's a convenient target. There's no political courage but only cheap opportunism.

While we've squandered our military presence in Iraq, we have failed to adequately fight the terrorists in Afgahnistan, quell the nuclear threat from Iran and South Korea and many other nations laugh at us. Make no mistake: Democrats are just as guilty.

As a Republican, I didn't turn my back on President Bush. He's turned his back on us.

Sorry, folks.

Posting is slowing down because the RAG is under the weather. Sinus stuff has spread and is taking its toll. Doing the best I can with what I have, so to speak.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Here's some immigration we should embrace.

OTTAWA — The Canadian government is once again awash in cash thanks to a much stronger than expected economy.

The budget surplus for fiscal 2007-08 will be much higher than projected, says the Finance Department.

In March, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty estimated the surplus would reach $3-billion.
However, the surplus had already doubled that in the three-month period ending in June.

“For the first three months of the 2007-08 fiscal year, the budgetary surplus is estimated at $6.4-billion,” the department said in a statement.

That's up $0.5-billion from the $5.9-billion surplus reported in the same period last year.

And it comes despite a 7.6 per cent jump in spending in the first quarter on defense, increased transfers to the provinces and territories, and government operating expenses.

The Finance Department has also dramatically revised upward its predictions for economic growth this year.

Comment: Maybe they can spend a little of the surplus on improving Canadian health care but, with that said, perhaps we should invite the Canadian government finance people to spend some time in Washington and Madison and show us how it's done.

Who is Donna Sollenberger? The $600,000 woman, that's who.

Hardly a household name, Donna Sollenberger just stepped down as CEO of the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in Madison to take a better job running the Baylor University Hospital and Clinic in Houston.

Sollenberger was paid a paltry $600,000 per year by the University of Wisconsin, about five times more than the govenor's salary and 50% more than President Bush.

$600,000 a year for a state employee. Wow. And we wonder why health care is so unaffordable these days.

Society in general and patients in particular were better off when hospitals were run by administrators who never thought of themselves as CEOs.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Too little, too late, too discriminatory.

From CBS News this morning:


After a review driven by three brutal slayings, the state attorney general on Wednesday ordered New Jersey law enforcers to notify federal immigration officials whenever someone arrested for an indictable offense or drunken driving is found to be an illegal immigrant.
Attorney General Anne Milgram reviewed the state's policy in light of the execution-style killings Aug. 4 of three Newark college students and the wounding of a fourth victim. One of the six suspects was an illegal immigrant who had been granted bail on child rape and aggravated assault charges without immigration officials being alerted to his existence.
While saying she did not want to "Monday morning quarterback" the Newark case, Milgram said that if the policy had been in place when Jose Carranza was indicted on the prior charges, federal officials might have placed an immigration hold on him, meaning he would have remained in custody or bail might have been set higher because of his immigration status.The killings highlighted the need "to have a uniform state policy on notification to immigration," Milgram said.
Before the directive, "all police departments in our state had complete discretion as to if, when and how to notify immigration authorities."The policy applies immediately to all state and local law enforcement and to prosecutors. It also specifies that police notify prosecutors and courts when illegal immigrants are arrested.
What's wrong with that picture?
For starters, it only covers a narrow range of offense and suggests that local law enforcement officials have to decide whether the arrested person is an illegal alien.
The fact of the matter is that immigration laws also provide possible exclusion penalties for legal aliens who commit certain offenses.
A better, nondiscriminatory way would be for all arrest data to be electronically transmitted to Immigration and Customs Enforcement as that agency must determine (1) whether the arrested person is likely to be an illegal alien or (2) if the arrested person is a legal alien, whether the offense mandates exclusion proceedings under federal law.
The other "up side" of full disclosure is that it does not single out or discriminate. Plus, it could be done electronically and seamlessly.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Time for an end to politics as usual.

Political parties fan the flames of blind allegiance and opposition just for the sake of it, hoping that somehow it'll zing the other side.

Of course, for as inept and out of control this President Bush is, the Democrats by and large are as bad, if not worse.

Both parties have forgotten that sometimes you have to step away from the game and do the people's business regardless of political advantage or consequences.

It's hard not to bang up on Bush but the reality is that it's superfluous in that he does a good job of it on his own. He's certainly made it difficult to be a Republican.

Of course, the Democrats are partying like drunken sailors over this and have forgotten that they, too, share some responsibility.

Republicans chant the mantra of less government and fiscal responsibility while Democrats whine about health care and education.

The truth is that it's all smoke and mirrors -- latter-day Republicans certainly haven't given us less government or one that's fiscally responsible while the Democrats, when they had the chance, didn't improve health care or education. Nonetheless these politicians continue to insult the American people by repeating these worn sound bytes.

The Democrats misread the 2006 election results. They didn't win. The Republicans lost.

The time has come for Main Street Americans to reclaim our government and the first step next year may be to throw the bums out -- all of them.

Has W finally got it -- or lost it?

According to President Bush, leaving Iraq now would provoke the kind of horrendous bloodbath that followed U.S. withdrawals from Vietnam and Cambodia.

"One unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like boat people, reeducation camps and killing fields," Bush told the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Kansas City, adding that exiting Vietnam in 1975 provided fodder for future terrorists like Osama bin Laden to cite the U.S. as losers who cut and run.

Predictably Bush's opponents went nuts over his view of history. Even David Gergen, while recognizing Vietnamese atrocities, notes that Vietnam eventually turned into a vibrant country which is what we supposedly hope for Iraq.

The Vietnam comparison is something Bush has avoided -- until now. But, since he's opened that door, let's go there.

We started in Vietnam small. Our military presence increased. So did our casualty count. We found ourselves quagmired in a country where many didn't want us there and opposition to the war at home increased. We didn't know how to fight an enemy that often couldn't be seen and whose agenda didn't fit what we typically understood. Further, we sacraficed American lives by fighting a war with our troops having one hand tied behind their backs.

Over 58,000 Americans lost their lives in Vietnam fighting a war that we entered for a noble reason but stayed in far too long. Our death count in Iraq is still a fraction of the Vietnam total but it's mounting.

We took Saddam Hussein out. But we can't stop the Iraqi civil war nor should we. It's a no-win situation. Meanwhile, we are undercommitted elsewhere and still haven't found Osama Bin Laden.

Many people have said that Iraq will be Bush's Vietnam. They're not far from the mark.

So, when our president wants to start comparing Iraq to Vietnam, I say "bring it on" because, as the old saying goes, if you fail to heed the lessons of history, you are indeed condemned to repeat them.

Who needs second-hand smoke when you have fried brains?

We used to joke that senility was a prerequisite for service on a county board.

That old joke kind of fell by the wayside as younger people started getting elected to county boards statewide but action by Kenosha County supervisors last night makes you wonder whether senility isn't just a function of old age.

The board voted 15-10 not to support a resolution backing a tougher statewide smoke-free proposal now in the Wisconsin legislature.

Supervisor James Huff -- recently retired from the Kenosha Police Department -- came out with an argument that clearly establishes him as a candidate for enlightenment.

Huff says he doesn't like cigarettes but doesn't want to infringe on the "rights" of private business owners. He also came up with this doozie: if the legislature can crack down on smoking today, maybe they'll ban trans-fats tomorrow.

While Huff doesn't smoke cigarettes, maybe he's smoking something else to come up with that haze.

The fact is that the government already regulates -- and appropriately so -- health and safety in the workplace. Not only is second-hand smoke a well-documented health hazard, research from California, where statewide smoke-free dining became the law years ago, shows a sharp decline in heart disease and cancer rates among workers in the once-smoky hospitality industry. Further, virtually every reputable piece of data shows that smoke-free workplace laws don't hurt business and, in fact, sales often increase.

A much more enlighted supervisor, Jennifer Jackson, recognizes that smoke-free legislation is designed to protect workers, such as her son who works in a restaurant to pay for school.

While Huff may huff-and-puff some lame rhetoric, he ignores the fact that the county board several years ago enacted a county-wide clean indoor air ordinance and the fact that one of the strongest supporters of the proposed statewide legislation is the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, once one of the tobacco industry's closest allies. He also ignores that Illinois just adopted a tougher statewide law.

Huff isn't alone. There were 14 other county board members who also didn't see through the smokescreen. One of them was Fred Ekornaas, who has ties to Dairyland Greyhound Park, hardly a smoke-free environment, and whose brother is a bar owner.

Hopefully our legislature will rely on wisdom far more intelligent than that displayed last night.

Good work, Officer Elm!

A hat tip goes to Officer Matt Elm of the Kenosha Police Department for some good police work last night.

Officer Elm responded to a suspicious person complaint at Saxony Manor, a senior citizens apartment complex on Kenosha's north side, where he saw a man in the parking lot who took off running upon Officer Elm's approach.

Officer Elm chased the suspect, who ran behind an apartment building, but was unable to initially locate him. The officer briefly retreated from the area and returned a few minutes later to see the suspect standing in the doorway of one of the apartment buildings.

The suspect again took off running and again disobeyed Officer Elm's commands to stop. He then turned and made a threatening gesture toward the officer who ultimately got control of the situation by deploying his "taser" device. The suspect continued to disobey the officer's commands even when he was on the ground and a second "taser" blast was needed to get him handcuffed.

The "rest of the story" is that the suspect is a probation and parole absconder who was convicted three times of battering an elderly Saxony Manor resident. One of those cases, a September 20, 2005 incident, was investigated by Officer Elm, who quite obviously had a very good reason to be suspicious when he saw the man standing in the doorway of the apartment building where his victim resides.

The suspect is on court-ordered "extended supervision" (which took the place of parole) for three years following a one year prison term and was released from prison less than two months ago.

Let's hope probation and parole authorities and the courts are on top of this case.

What would David Haines say about this?

Some of us are old enough to remember David Haines, the wacky WOKY newscaster of the 1960's and early 1970's, who dared to teeter on the brink of political correctness with such leads as "from the overnight crook book" and "while you were sleeping and the police were on their coffee break."

Today, it's the news coming from Milwaukee that's racy, not the antics of a disc jockey turned newscaster.

For example, from the overnight crook book comes word that a 16-year-old girl was wounded in her home on the north side of Milwaukee by a stay bullet fired on the street. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel isn't saying whether the police were on their coffee break but the folks who run the city have been for at least a couple of decades.

I don't care how much you dress up the downtown or how expensive or impossible it is to park there, the trendy stuff is irrelevant when children in or at their own homes -- and last night's incident isn't the first -- are innocent victims of a community in a state of insurrection. The frills are like putting a $400 suit on an alcoholic.

The politicians will continue to offer their various butt covering explanations and potential solutions but, at the end of the day, this is war and the history of war is such that politics must be set aside if you want victory.

If.

(Personal note: Bruce "David" Haines died two years ago. At the time he was a newscaster at a suburban Washington, D.C. radio station.)

Not all the nitwits are television news anchors -- some are "educators."

The mythical Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man sang about trouble in River City enabled by the presence of a pool table.

That pool hall trouble is nothing compared with the educational vacuum enabled by lame school districts and those who run them.

This became apparent to me several years ago when my daughter brought home grade school assignments that rivaled high school and college work for those of us post-war baby boomers.

By middle school and high school it reached the point where some of this work was so complex that a person like me – with a doctoral degree – couldn’t understand her homework.

With that in mind, I have to wonder why we can teach geometry, algebra, calculus and trigonometry and yet many high school graduates can’t make change or figure out something as simple as miles per gallon of gasoline?

Why – with all the resources available – can’t many high school (or even college) graduates write a simple business letter or even properly address an envelope?

Just yesterday I received two letters from an attorney which were misaddressed and full of errors. One of the letters “demanded” prompt action which was delayed because the name of the intended recipient of her correspondence was omitted.

We may have used rotary dial telephones when I was in the third grade but, after a field trip to the Wisconsin Telephone Company, we had to write “thank you” letters. This continued throughout elementary and junior high school so that by high school we had some clue about how to write a letter.

It doesn’t stop there.

Our students are so inundated with required high-tech math and science requirements in that massive push for higher test scores that our schools have forsaken the basics.

That’s why we have high school graduates who can’t make change, figure out fuel economy or which item on the grocery store shelf is the better buy, write a simple business letter or prepare a resume.

These skills are necessary for everyday living. One would think that our schools would ensure that students master them before teaching the high-tech curriculum.

One would think.

But, as an old friend points out, if common sense was really common, they’d sell it at Wal-Mart.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Bringing some closure in Minneapolis

The body of the last known victim of the I35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis was recovered from the Mississippi River Monday, bringing the death toll to 13.

Gregory Jolstad was a construction crew member working on resurfacing the bridge when it collapsed nearly three weeks ago.

The discovery of the remains of the last known missing person in the bridge tragedy brings some closure to the friends and families of those who perished.

It also fulfills a promise made by Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, who was in charge of the recovery operations, to bring all the lost home.

Throughout all of the bustle, Sheriff Stanek stood out as a model of compassion and professionalism. He and the multitude of others who were involved in the rescue and recovery deserve our appreciation.

Kenosha and Pleasant Prairie: Doing the right thing

The Kenosha City Council Monday night did the right thing when it sent the proposed restrictions on where registered sex offenders can live back to committee for further study.

As discussed here http://ragdujour.blogspot.com/2007/08/clamping-down-on-sex-offenders-do-it.html the proposed ordinance had a lot of red flags, so much so that one of its sponsors, Ald. Ray Misner, withdrew his support.

A further sign of intelligence came from the Pleasant Prairie Village Board which signalled that the village would be inclined to mirror whatever ordinance the city may adopt. That's a good idea. You don't want to have the city and the village marching to different tunes on this issue.

The village board's action may also be a hopeful sign of a willingness to sit down with the city and work out metropolitan solutions to problems that transcend invisible boundaries. Let's hope that this is a start.

Monday, August 20, 2007

UW-Mad City slips from the party hardy list

The Princeton Review's list of the top 20 party schools is out -- and West Virginia University tops the list.

This has to be a bummer for some at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as UW-Mad City didn't even make the list. In fact, the only Big Ten schools listed are Penn State, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana.

Further adding insult to an academic goofoff's injury is the omission of Wisconsin from the Reefer Madness (Vassar and Sarah Lawrence made that list) and Best Hard Liquor Colleges (Indiana, Iowa and Penn State represent the Big Ten there).

The Badgers redeemed themselves from piety by topping the "Lots of Beer" chart, thus avoiding the "Stone Cold Sober" list.

The new rankings must have students, alumni and parents in a tizzy over the possibility that the UW's flagship campus might be mistaken for Brigham Young.

Not to worry. It may just be that the list makers finally realized the truth about UW-Madison: it is not a party school.

Say what? That's like taking cheese and brats away from Wisconsin!

The reality is that while UW-Madison isn't a party school it has great parties. In this case, the distinction has a difference.

At UW academics and just getting through the day are such that you can't party until you drop every night of the week without running the risk of the best case scenario being that you'll flunk out. In fact, the campus takes on a mortuary like atmosphere a couple of weeks before semester finals.

But, when the weekend comes, or the semester's over or it's Halloween, then it's Toga, Toga, Toga! Those Mountaineers can't possibly match that.

How could Michael Moore miss this one?

Editorial from Great Falls (Mont.) Tribune:

Quads' arrival shows other side of Canadian system

We're sure we speak on behalf of the entire community of Great Falls as we send heartfelt congratulations to J.P. and Karen Jepp, the proud new parents of quadruplets born Sunday in Great Falls.

What a thrill to be part of such a miraculous birth. The chances of conceiving identical quadruplets are anywhere from 1 in 11 million to 1 in 16 million, according to perinatologist Tom Key.

That the risky births had a happy ending, with a quartet of four healthy sisters, is testament to the skill of Dr. Key and his outstanding staff at the Benefis East Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Hundreds of kids — kids who entered the world on a wing and a prayer — are running and playing today because of the live-saving efforts of Key and his team.

Kids like Mario Uggetti.

Now school age, Mario was born two hours after his mom, Laura Uggetti, arrived from Butte by Mercy Flight. He arrived 10 weeks early at only 3 pounds, 4 ounces. The traumatic birth caused bleeding on his brain.

But Mario pulled through and thrived.

"Without ... the staff at Benefis, Mario wouldn't be here," his mom told the Tribune as she watched him play after his first birthday.

The NICU admits more than 200 patients a year and is capable of breathtaking procedures to save their tiny patients, including open heart surgery.

For a community our size, we are blessed to have big-city care for our new arrivals.

And that brings us to our next point:

It's mind-boggling that no hospital in a cosmopolitan, oil-rich city the size of Calgary — much less any other hospital in Canada — could deliver the Jepp sisters.

Karen Jepp was flown to Great Falls after Calgary's Foothills Medical Centre called every high-level NICU unit in Canada in search of a hospital that could deliver the girls, reported The Globe and Mail newspaper Thursday. The province of Ontario had 200 such beds, but couldn't handle four babies together, the newspaper reported.

Jepp was the fifth Alberta woman sent to Benefis this year because of NICU shortages in Canada.

We've heard much talk lately about Canada's "free" health care system, glorified in Michael Moore's documentary "Sicko."

Canada is certainly superior when it comes to providing all citizens with basic, preventative health care — an admirable feat.

But the births of the Jepp sisters are case in point that Canada's medical infrastructure is as flawed as ours, just on the other end. Woe be those like Karen Jepp and her girls, whose lives depend on access to specialized doctors and surgeons.

As our congressmen debate the future of our health care system, we urge them to keep cases such as the Jepps' in mind.

Thankfully, everything went swimmingly for the Jepp family.

As they return home, we wish them the best.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Undocumented fireworks?

It wasn't that long ago that we celebrated the Fourth of July, our Independence Day in the United States.

I did so legally. But there were a lot of folks who decided to mess around with firecrackers and all sorts of other illegal fireworks. Regardless of what the law says, they chose to break the law and act illegally and, if they were caught and successfully prosecuted, they willingly undertook the risk.

There are these signs posted all over our streets and highways. They're called "speed limit" signs. Drive over the speed limit and you're doing so illegally.

Same with that loud muffler. It's an illegal muffler.

It would sure sound funny to say that the yahoos who risk blowing their fingers off or worse with those firecrackers were using "undocumented" fireworks.

Ditto for Mr. or Ms. Leadfood driving at an "undocumented" speed or with an "undocumented" muffler.

So why is it when we have people in this country illegally that there are those who want to avoid that fact by calling them "undocumented" immigrants?

It's because these namby-pamby sawdust brained idiots don't want to admit the fact that you're either in this country legally or illegally. It's one or the other.

To them, the law of the land means nothing. Or, for that matter, the rule of law, period, means nothing.

After all, every nation I know of has immigration laws. And, when I visit a foreign country, I am expected to obey them.

But when folks demand enforcement of our laws in this country, there are those lame brains who want to dodge the issue for reasons ranging from ostensibly altruistic to sinisterly corrupt.

There are many good reasons to be concerned about illegal immigration.

Terrorism, of course, is one of them, although I don't think Jose or Maria picking lettuce, handing you your McDonald's order or cleaning up a mall are necessarily among them.

A more compelling concern -- one that truly bothered former President Ronald Reagan -- was the exploitation of illegal aliens who, because of their illegal status, can't complain about being paid subminimum wages, working unpaid overtime or being subjected to inhuman working conditions.

Of course, there are those who benefit from taking advantage of illegal immigrants. Some of them have powerful friends in Washington, D.C. Heaven forbid they'd have to pay or treat immigrant workers the same as American citizens.

And then there's the rule of law. Whether you're one of the corrupt exploiters of illegal immigrants or a misguided bleeding heart, the law remains the law and should be obeyed and enforced. Those who entered this country illegally knowingly did so and thus also did so with knowledge that if they're caught there would be consequences.

So let's cut out the "undocumented" crap -- they're either legal or illegal, period.

My message to illegal immigrants is simple: get legal or get out. (I note that when amnesty was offered to illegal aliens that many willingly chose not to take advantage of it.)

Having said that, there's something just as disgusting and that's the tendency on those who use the call for strict immigration enforcement as a cover for their own prejudices.

Not every illegal alien is a terrorist, cop killer, drug dealer or child molester. Most are folks just trying to make a living to support themselves and their children. Yes, it's not inappropriate to be upset that they are flaunting the immigration laws, but for most that's the extent of their illegal behavior. For the most part, we must remember to hate the sin but love the sinner.

There is also a need for immigration law reform. There's something sick about a system where thousands of people secretly cross our orders and are tacitly allowed to be here and yet we turn away a decorated Canadian schoolteacher who was going to a weekend conference to teach American schoolteachers. (The Canadian teacher actually had a visa but the U.S. immigration officers at each port of entry are apparently free to make up their own interpretations of the law on the fly.) Immigration law should be based on common sense and should, as a component, demand reciprocity (try to be an American who wants to own property in Mexico). Because of all the special interests, though, I doubt any meaningful reform will be on the way.

In the meantime, I wonder if the namby-pambies think Pablo Escobar and his cartel buddies deal in "undocumented" drugs?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Midwest Airlines: Time to go back to its roots

Now that TPG Capital beat out AirTran for control of Midwest Airlines, the task ahead is really what it was all along: running a successful airline.

To do that Midwest CEO Tim Hoeksema needs to pay attention to Midwest’s roots, something he’s strayed from and for which he needs to be called out.

Midwest distinguished itself by offering chef catered meals on china served on passengers seated two-across in fine leather seats. Not to mention the signature chocolate chip cookies.

After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the resulting airline industry nosedive, Tim initiated a number of cost cutting measures.

The great meals are gone. The signature seating has been replaced on some routes by traditional cramped coach. Tim thinks passengers really like those cramped, silly 50-passenger Canadair regional jets, an idea so full of crap that it shows he never talks to customers (or, if he does, talks to the wrong ones).

While these moves helped in the short run, they aren’t likely to hold up. It’s time to get back to Midwest’s routes.

For example, Tim wants to put some regular seating in with the premium seating. Duh. Northwest Airlines, which saved Tim’s hiney, already does that. It’s called coach vs. first class.

Instead, Midwest needs to bring back the great meals. They don’t need to be free. They used to cost the airline ten bucks. So, why not give passengers the opportunity to book a meal? Ten bucks for one of those great Midwest meals vs. spending eight or nine on airport food. That’s a no-brainer.

The saver service is appropriate – those are the planes with regular coach seating – but fares need to be competitive. They aren’t.

Midwest needs to do more to court passengers for its premium seat service. How?

Well, what about northern Illinois? Midwest used to advertise for those passengers but advertising isn’t enough.

One option would be to check into subleasing gate space at O’Hare. Midwest could then shuttle O’Hare passengers directly to Milwaukee and onto one of those great signature flights.

Another option would be to provide free shuttle bus service from far northern Chicago suburbs. (Of course, you don’t want to run those busses on the Illinois all-toll-and-no-way lest they encounter frequent traffic delays.)

Bottom line: Midwest gained fame as a contrarian airline. If it doesn’t go back to its roots, then AirTran might as well have taken it over.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Too weird to be made up

Breaking news from Missouri:

Missouri is cracking down on drunk driving for the next couple of weeks. It's not just DUI checkpoints and extra officers on the road. There's also a big public awareness campaign -- radio ads, PSAs and, new this year, talking urinal cakes.

The state bought about 200 urinal cakes, which will be distributed to bars in Kansas City, St. Louis, Springfield and Columbia, a MoDOT spokeswoman said. When in use, a lady's voice emanates from the urinal, repeating the following words:

“Hey big guy, going out tonight? Having a few drinks? Make sure if you’re drinking, you find a sober driver. Because if you drink and drive, the next urinal you use could be in jail. Remember, your future is in your hand.”

New Mexico and a few other states have used talking urinal cakes with a lot success, the spokeswoman said. Most fatal car wrecks involve young men, so officials hope this is a unique way to catch their attention.

Each cake costs $22.50. They're being paid for with federal funds and usually last two to three months. The state lets the bar keep them.

No comment.

Midwest Airlines-TPG Merger Details

Here's the actual agreement: http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/948845/000089271207000917/exh21.htm

LAX: At your own risk?

A WestJet 737 arrving at Los Angeles International Airport yesterday came within 50 feet of colliding with a Northwest Airbus 320 which was taking off.

The WestJet pilot was able to stop the 737 in time.

The Federal Aviation Administraion reports that the incident appears to be the result of the WestJet pilot being on the wrong radio frequency so that he couldn't receive instructions from the air traffic controller and the ground traffic controller's giving the flight clearance to land without first checking with the air traffic controller.

The "runway incursion" is the eighth such incident this year at LAX -- matching the total number of incidents reported there for all of 2006.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Who is this flaming radical?

  • The founding fathers had a reason for endorsing the principle of limited government; and this reason recommends defense of the constitutional scheme even to those who take their citizenship obligations lightly. The reason is simple, and it lies at the heart of the Conservative philosophy.
  • Throughout history, government has proved to be the chief instrument for thwarting man's liberty. Government represents power in the hands of some men to control and regulate the lives of other men. And power, as Lord Acton said, corrupts men, "Absolute power," he added, "corrupts absolutely." State power, considered in the abstract, need not restrict freedom: but absolute state power always does.
  • The legitimate functions of government are actually conducive to freedom. Maintaining internal order, keeping foreign foes at bay, administering justice, removing obstacles to the free interchange of goods--the exercise of these powers makes it possible for men to follow their chosen pursuits with maximum freedom. But note that the very instrument by which these desirable ends are achieved can be the instrument for achieving undesirable ends--that government can, instead of extending freedom, restrict freedom. And note, secondly, that the "can" quickly becomes "will" the moment the holders of government power are left to their own devices. This is because of the corrupting influence of power, the natural tendency of men who possess some power to take unto themselves more power. The tendency leads eventually to the acquisition of all power--whether in the hands of one or many makes little difference to the freedom of those left on the outside.
  • [R]elease the holders of state power from any restraints other than those they wish to impose upon themselves, and you are swinging down the well-travelled road to absolutism.
  • The framers of the Constitution had learned the lesson. They were not only students of history, but victims of it: they knew from vivid, personal experience that freedom depends on effective restraints against the accumulation of power in a single authority. And that is what the Constitution is: a system of restraints against the natural tendency of government to expand in the direction of absolutism.
Such were the words of the late Senator Barry Goldwater. Compared to the almost autocratic administration in power today, it is blasphemy for those politicians to call themselves conservatives.

We've become a nation of wimps and ninnies who put up with this wholesale erosion of our liberties. As Pogo once said, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

Wal-Mart Air: Lessons Joe Leonard could learn

When one considers the sorry state of the airline industry today -- especially if you happen to be old enough to remember when it was classy and even a little fun to fly -- it's easy to loosely categorize airline products by the department stores they best represent.

First, there's Bloomie's Air -- upscale, overpriced and limited.

Then Macy's Air -- a hint of upscale with something for everone.

Sears Air -- Solid, dependable, not terribly fancy but stays the course.

Target Air -- Cheaper than Macy's but a little more hip and tries to have something for most people.

K-Mart Air -- Older, dirtier, around the block and long in the tooth.

Wal-Mart Air -- Newer than K-Mart Air, slightly cheaper and not as trendy as Target Air, and wishes it was Sears Air.

Truth time: airlines may fit more than one definition, but it's a good start.

So we have AirTran, the carrier born of the ashes -- almost literally -- of ValuJet, acquiring new airplanes but flying with few amenities (such as no meals, even in business class) and perhaps most akin to Wal-Mart Air.

Now being Wal-Mart Air isn't such a bad rap. Sam Walton made his money the old fashioned way: he earned it. He started small, worked his butt off, aimed to give customers the lowest prices and believed in what he did. Nobody ever accused Sam Walton of being a fashion guru.

Air-Tran under Joe Leonard was kind of like that.

But sometimes people get too big for their britches.

Then we have Midwest Airlines.

Now I have hardly been their cheerleader. I've publicly criticized several recent management decisions.

For example, Midwest, which was more like a cross between Bloomie's and Macy's, earned a great reputation nationwide for excellent service. But they abandoned the name that got them there: Midwest Express. Not trendy enough, Tim Hoeksema said. Waste of money to repaint all those planes, I said.

Then, when the post 9/11 noose started to choke airlines, Tim started to cut corners, such as eliminating those fine meals on china. Duh.

That boneheaded idea was the worst mistake he ever made. That level of service -- which cost $10 a pop -- is what distinguished Midwest Express from the rest of the pack.

Truth is, they could have charged folks $10 for the meal and broke even. Would you rather pay $10 for a fine meal on china or $5 for a sick snack box full of enough preservaties to run a funeral home? I rest my case.

Straying from your roots can backfire. Just ask the folks at Sears who once had a crazy idea that they could become Sak's and didn't need to stock headlight bulbs.

Nonetheless, Midwest made its money the old fashioned way, too, by offering great service. They got sideswiped by 9/11 because the downturn came as Midwest was expanding its service to add a Kansas City hub and added service in Omaha.

Had 9/11 not happened, Tim would have been heralded as a genius. But the downturn hit Midwest hard in light of the budding expansion.

The proud airline -- which for many years was profitable (I seem to recall once it was only like $50,000 one year in the airline's early history) at a time other carriers were bleeding red ink -- had to suck it in.

But loyal followers helped restructure financing. Business came back and Midwest started turning profits again despite much higher fuel costs.

Now Joe Leonard was getting too big for his britches. He didn't want to earn money the old fashioned way. He figured he could just cough up some cash, write out some stock certificates and take over Midwest, gobbling up their equipment and gates. He didn't even want to pay full cash for the deal.

The prince of Wal-Mart Air didn't want to work for this business, no sir. He couldn't be bothered with selling the superiority of his product even though he was free to do so.

Now we all know Wal-Mart has both a lot of customers and a lot of detractors who blame it variously for killing off other businesses to entire cities. The "sour grapes" crowd forgot that Sam Walton started at a five-and-ten in a small town and built his empire from the ground up. Whatever he got he earned.

One other curious Wal-Mart thing: if a town or neighborhood says you're not welcome, Wal-Mart generally shakes the dust off its feet and moves on.

Joe Leonard's Wal-Mart Air would do neither. He didn't want to earn business. Nor did he shake the dust off his feet. In fact, when he was told no, he at first said good bye but then came back two days later with another deal almost as shaky as the first.

But when you live by the sword, you run the risk of dying by the sword.

Another suitor came along offering hard cash and promising to leave the core Midwest product intact. Even the three directors Joe forced onto the Midwest board agreed that it was a better deal -- twice.

Now I see nothing inherently wrong with Wal-Marts or even Wal-Mart Air. But Sam Walton made his fortune by starting small, building up and offering customers what they wanted at more reasonable prices. While competitors may have shuttered their doors in response, the fact is that it was their decision to do so. Sam never came in and bought out the grocery store, the hardware store and the drug store.

So, Joe, suck it up and be a man like Sam. Instead of cutting corners, build up your business in Milwaukee by offering a competitive product at a more reasonable price -- you have every right and opportunity to do so. If people like Wal-Mart Air like they do Wal-Mart Supercenters, you just might have the last laugh.

But if you don't want to earn your money the old fashioned way, you're not fit to spit shine Sam's shoes.

Breaking news: Midwest chooses TPG at $17/share cash

The deal is done: Midwest Airlines goes for $17/share cash to TPG pursuant to unanimous vote of Midwest directors. CEO Tim Hoeksema says Northwest Airlines will be a minority passive investor but concedes he doesn't know the exact percentage. More details in a news release tomorrow morning.

Hoeksema's comments imply that the arrangement will continue present Midwest service.

Midwest Board: Time to put AirTran offer out of its misery

The board of directors of Midwest Airlines' holding company will meet today to consider the two offers on the table to, in essence, buy the company.

One, from TPG, a consortium which includes passive minority investment from Northwest Airlines, offers $16 per share in cash.

The other, a stab in the dark proposal from AirTran, which on Sunday vowed it was out of the bidding, is a mixture of cash and AirTran stock which was valued at $16.25 per share when it was made but, as of last night, is now only worth $15.98 per share. That volatility alone suggests that AirTran's offer isn't the best.

The proposals, from what we can tell, are vastly dissimilar in other ways.

AirTran essentially wants to gut Midwest Airlines but use its planes and gates to expand its so-called "low cost carrier" strategy at Milwaukee and Kansas City. (It' "so-called 'low cost carrier'" because AirTran's fares aren't always the cheapest.)

TPG apparently plans to build on the present Midwest business model.

At the end of the day, the decision comes down to what's best for Midwest shareholders. On that basis, the TPG all cash offer smokes AirTran's for most investors.

The all-cash offer means Midwest shareholders are free to immediately invest 100% of the proceeds into other vehicles. The AirTran deal would require liquidation (and payment of commission to do so) of the AirTran stock at whatever value the stock may have. Bottom line: a bird in the hand is better than one in the bush.

The performance record of the two companies is also something to consider.

TPG helped nurse Continental Airlines into a profitable carrier. AirTran is really the old ValuJet, the startup carrier which was plagued by a horrific safety record to the extent that ValuJet did a "reverse merger" with a smaller carrier to shed itself of the ValuJet moniker. Since then AirTran has expanded its fleet and has numerous Boering 737-700 planes on order.

One troubling aspect with AirTran has been its spotty record in Milwaukee, its present "E" concourse gates still vacant much of the time. AirTran would have had more credibility had it expanded service at Milwaukee, which it could have done and still can, and should, do.

AirTran also seems to delight in bashing Midwest's business model but the present day analysts forget that Midwest, prior to September 11, 2001, had 14 consecutive years of profitability at a time when many other carriers were hemmoraging red ink. A recent post 9/11 attempt by Northwest Airlines to kick Midwest out of the box didn't work.

The Midwest directors have a duty to consider what's in the best interests of the shareholders and the company. Midwest has survived as a somewhat contrarian company and the best interests of the shareholders and company are best served by an owner intent on growing the company, not dismantling it. That kicks AirTran down the stairs and out the door, hopefully for good.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Tommy: For real but not for long

It was just last week here that it was predicted that former Gov. Tommy Thompson may not win the Iowa GOP straw poll.

After coming in sixth, Thompson did the inevitable and pulled out of the presidential race.

Since then, a number of editorial writers and bloggers have flamed Thompson for even trying. They're wrong.

Perhaps only in his mind could Tommy from Elroy win the whole enchilada but why should that stop him from trying? It was his right as a constitutionally qualified American citizen who happens to have a resume that, at least on paper, rivals and, in some instances, trumps the more well-heeled candidates (and, actually, the present occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.).

No question the nation wasn't ready for President Tommy Thompson but it's simply ridiculous to blast him for trying.

The Milorganite award goes to AirTran's CEO Joe Leonard

AirTran's battle to buy out Midwest Airlines supposedly ended Sunday night when Joe Leonard, AirTran chairman and chief executive officer, said, "For the good of our shareholders and crew members, we have terminated negotiations and allowed our tender offer to expire. At this time, we will focus our efforts on AirTran's strategic plan that has resulted in eight years of successful growth."

At that time it appeared that AirTran was throwing in the towel after TPG, a capital group, offered $16 cash for each share of Midwest stock, a premium over AirTran's cash and stock swap proposal.

Less that 48 hours after AirTran's "final" offer Joe Leonard was doing the proverbial "180" by offering a new cash-and-stock deal for about a quarter more per share than TPG. Midwest directors announced that they'd take the latest AirTran proposal under consideration.

There's always been good reason to question Leonard's credibility. After all, AirTran could have expanded service in Milwaukee without taking over Midwest. It hasn't done so and that makes one wonder whether all the promises Leonard made are simply illusions. This latest stunt removes all doubt.

Accordingly, Joe Leonard is the latest winner of The (Somewhat) Daily RAG's "Milorganite" award that goes to a person so full of dung that they should be licensed as a sewage treatment plant.

Enjoy it, Joe. You earned it.

Doyle dollars: Punishing success with higher taxes

For more than three decades -- beginning with the "no tax increase" sham budgets of former Gov. Patrick Lucey -- there's been a huge "smoke and mirrors" game in Madison which has resulted in higher taxes and less accountability.

Here's how it works.

In order not to increase the state income tax, Lucey came up with a litany of user fees and further shifted costs to counties and municipalities. So, while the governor and legislature didn't raise taxes, they were increased anyway because counties, cities, villages and towns needed to cover the shifted costs. Thus, Madison politicians continue to snow constitutents while local officials are left to take the heat.

One particular area of hypocritical cost shifting has to do with incarcerating juvenile criminals.

When an adult is sent to a state prison, the annual cost (about $27,500 a year) is picked up by the state. Not so with juveniles.

Counties are socked with the cost of locking up juvenile criminals -- and the Jim Doyle team wants to up that cost from $68,000 a year to over $94,000 a year.

Why so expensive?

Essentially, it's the price to be paid for success.

You see, forcing counties to pay for locking up juvenile criminals was supposed to be an incentive for judges to do everything possible at the local level to avoid doing what probably should have been done a lot earlier.

As a result, fewer juvenile thugs are being sent to reform school -- in fact, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that while there were about 450 boys at Ethan Allen School in 1998, the number dropped to 288 last month.

One big problem is that while the number of residents dropped, the fixed costs remain the same. That means it costs the state about as much to handle 288 juvenile miscreants as it does to handle 450. Thus, the cost per resident is higher and that increased cost is billed to the county that locked up the juvenile offender.

All of this means that the financial incentives originally conceived for dealing with juvenile lawbreakers at the community level are evaporating.

Of course, if the state does what it should, it should pick up the full cost of incarcerating juvenile criminals at state institutions. But since when does this state do what it should?

R. Scott Pierce: A resignation long overdue

R. Scott Pierce, the controversial superintendent of the Kenosha Unified School District, has resigned to run a charter school in Milwaukee.

Pierce officially labels it a "retirement" but today's resignation is effective on Sept. 1 which hardly is the way most school superintendents "retire."

It's hard to say what straw broke the camel's back here -- the school board and current superintenent seem to bask in operating in secrecy -- but Pierce has been a huge disappointment.

There were expectations that Pierce, a Kenosha native, would be a unifying, healing influence. Those expectations were unmet.

Instead, Pierce turned out to be one of the most arrogant and out of touch public officials in the history of the county. Wrapped up in his own self-importance, he created his "cabinet" of administrators -- "cabinet" was his description. He eliminated the position of assistant superintendent, apparently unwilling to trust anyone to share power and responsibility.

The president of the United States has cabinet. A local school superinendent does not and should not.

Under Pierce the school district became hugely and irreparably insular and bureaucratic.

While we wish Pierce the best of luck in his new duties, we wish his successor even more luck in attempting to undo the damage Pierce left behind.

GOP: Giving up on African-Americans?

The National Association of Black Journalists met last week in Las Vegas. That fact alone is hardly news.

Nor should it be news that Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton showed up. After all, Democrats seem to be at their best when they pander for black votes.

But the absence of any of the Republican presidential hopefuls was of more than passing interest because it fuels the perception that the GOP has given up on black voters.

I am continually amazed at how the modern day Republican party seems to have forgotten its civil rights heritage.

Racism and conservatism don't mix. Civil rights is a core conservative value – more importantly, a core Republican value – that some latter-day Republicans seem to have difficulty embracing.

When President Kennedy originally proposed civil rights legislation, many congressional Republicans attacked it as too weak and vowed to rewrite it. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 would never have seen the light of day had Senate minority leader Everett Dirksen of Illinois not marshaled most Republican senators to terminate the Dixiecrat filibuster aimed at killing the bill.

Former Atlanta mayor and United Nations ambassador Andrew Young, jr., notes that the federal judges appointed by President Eisenhower were, in the pre-Civil Rights Act days, often the only recourse available to blacks during their struggle for equality.

There are times when some people who profess to represent my party – the party of Lincoln – for inexplicable and inexcusable reasons seem to reject our rich civil rights heritage and, in so doing, have fueled a misimpression that the Democratic party exclusively is on the side of African-Americans. This isn't just wrong -- it's stupid.

Instead of pandering to black voters, Republican candidates need to show them that they offer the best alternative. I suspect most black voters would appreciate being treated as equals and not as an immature class that needs rescuing by Democrats. But insulting black voters by ignoring them isn't the way for the GOP to distinguish itself.

Goodbye, Karl Rove

Karl Rove was in a dicey spot: If his strategies prevailed, he'd be viewed as a guru in the circles of those who embrace the current White House. If not, he's dead meat.

Rove chose to leave his policy management position in the Bush Administration as part of an overall presidential staff shakeup, something, by the way, that's not uncommon in the waning days of a presidency.

It's difficult to come away with a neutral assessment of the Bush White House. It's almost like the Hillary Rodham Clinton situation: most folks either like her or they don't. Very little "in between" there.

Nonetheless, I'll try.

The Bush White House has been largely inept and far too politicized. Prior to 9/11 the administration lacked focus then seized on "national security" (Who can oppose national security in the wake of a terrorist attack, after all?) as its issue. Even so, the national security record is mixed at best.

Osama Bin Laden is still at large. Iraq is in civil war and we've lost over 3,000 American lives there. Failing to heed the lessons of Vietnam our troops fight with one hand tied behind their back. Much of the rest of the world views us with distrust. Gasoline costs double -- or more -- than it did when Bush took office. We couldn't adequately respond to hurricanes. And the list of unresolved problems goes on.

Of course that list is simplistic but at the end of the day there still is a lack of focus in this White House on anything other than political survival.

That focus is to be expected. Political animals understandably have survival instincts.

But there still remains in most governments a need and desire to faithfully discharge the routine affairs of the government which this White House simply hasn't done with any modicum of distinction. Just as John Kerry was an embarassment to the Democratic party, George W. Bush carries the same moniker in the G.O.P.

Perhaps -- just perhaps -- there will be enough backlash that both Republicans and Democrats will join together to send the message of "throw the bums out" to politicians of both parties who turn their backs on their duties and the American people.

But don't count on it.

Where Midwest's strategy may fail

There's been a flurry of talk -- mostly speculation as details are scant -- about the impact of TPG's buyout of Midwest Airlines (technically, the parent company) and its impact on airline travelers.

The buzz is that TPG may be banking on a simmering desire by frequent business travelers for premium service such as that offered by the pre-9/11 Midwest Express.

If so, then this may run afoul of plans by Midwest to convert its "two-across" aircraft to squeeze more seats into "the back of the bus" with those narrower seats selling for less.

Seems plausible except when you consider that on other airlines frequent flyers who buy seats in the back of the bus have a shot an upgrading to first class. The Midwest strategy may only work if frequent flyers have a chance to upgrade to any unsold premium seats. Otherwise frequent flyers may opt to go with competitors who offer free upgrades.

One of the other unknowns in the last day's discussion is the impact on Kansas City where Midwest has been increasing its presence. Like Milwaukee, Kansas City is underserved and it may well be that TPG will look at increasing service there.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Midwest dodges AirTran bullet

Midwest Airlines dodged the AirTran takeover bullet with a buyout package that will net shareholders $16 per share in cash, a premium over AirTran's cash and stock offer.

The deal means Midwest management stays intact -- for now -- and we'll need to wait and see what other changes may be in the offing.

Northwest Airlines confirmed Sunday night that it's a passive investor in this consortium. This fuels a ton of speculation, of course, but suffice to say that Northwest would be smart to take and keep a hands off approach. Midwest would function best -- and southeastern Wisconsin served the best -- by a free-standing airline.

Diversity in an international city

I'm wrapping up attending the American Bar Association's annual meeting in San Francisco.

Happily my family is with me for what may be the last trip (or close to it) that we take together.

I say happily for many reasons, one of which is that it's nice to be in an international city.

For many of us, the only faces we see are white, black and brown. America, however, is more inclusive than that and being in a city such as San Franscisco serves to remind us of that.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Prayers for Melodie Wilson

Tonight I ask your prayers for a person who made a difference in southeastern Wisconsin for so many years.

Melodie Wilson Oldenberg -- known just as Melodie Wilson to television viewers for a couple of decades -- is battling an incurable cancer. She previously was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992.

Although I haven't seen Mel in years, I remember she was a reporter's reporter. Although she gained fame as a television news anchor, Mel was, unlike many others, first a reporter. I sat through many Milwaukee school board meetings with Mel who covered those stories the textbook way by becoming knowledgeable about schools and attending board meetings.

In later years as her fame and job responsibilities grew, she never stopped trying to go beyond the quick hit and learn the "real story."

There's much more that I could say but these things pale in comparison to the battle she has on her hands now. Even after leaving active news reporting, Mel continued to do much to serve the community.

It's time for this community to give something back to Mel -- our prayers and support.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Johnson and Johnson: Giving lawyers a bad name

Part of the buzz at the American Bar Association annual meeting here in San Francisco is over a lawsuit filed by corporate giant Johnson and Johnson against the American Red Cross.

Johnson and Johnson wants the Red Cross to stop using in some advertising -- get this -- the red cross. You heard that right.

Seems Johnson and Johnson and the American Red Cross share the trademark right to the red cross logo. The charity also uses it on a smattering of merchandise it sells -- stuff that brings in about $10 million a year to the charity -- which angers Johnson and Johnson (even though $10 million to the corporate mammoth is chump change).

The Red Cross was founded by Clara Barton in 1881. Johnson and Johnson didn't come along until six years later. Regardless of the nuances of the law, most people would agree that the charity would have first dibs on the name and the red cross logo.

The firestorm over this insane lawsuit is inflaming the blogworld including calls to boycott Johnson and Johnson products.

Good idea. The courts have better things to do than to babysit this silly lawsuit. Johnson and Johnson and their lawyers should hang their heads in shame. Boners like this one show why the legal profession is viewed with such disdain by so many Americans.